The Legend of Legacy Review
A SaGa by Any Other Name
The Legend of Legacy may seem like an odd title for a game, but it’s actually quite fitting given the nature of the game’s story and the heritage of its development team. Developed by FuRyu with a number of former Square Enix staff known for work on the SaGa series, it’s heritage becomes quickly apparent. Mixing elements from the SaGa series with new features and story that give it a style all its own, Legend of Legacy manages to both feel closely linked to games like Romancing SaGa but also have its own unique flair. A number of issues do hold it back, such as a very thin story and some asset reuse that make it clear that the game didn’t have the largest budget, but even so, Legend of Legacy‘s brand of classic turn-based RPG is quite a fun ride.
The game is all about exploring a mysterious island that has recently appeared in the world. Players are given a brief intro to one of seven main characters of their choosing, and then after a quick intro area are free to explore the mysterious island of Avalon at their leisure. There is a single town which serves as a base of operations, but beyond that the other locations players access are monster-filled dungeons ripe for exploring. There is no strict order in which players need to explore these areas. While certain objectives do become obvious from the natural process of exploring, there is no hand-holding to be found here. Except for one or two areas in the game, all locations can generally be discovered from exploring areas already available to the player. The shopkeeper in town does sell maps for new areas at various points, for those that want to speed things up. Maps of locations explored can also be sold to the shopkeeper in town, with more gold being given if the player has completely explored that dungeon. All of this makes exploring the island an absolute blast. There’s tons to explore and plenty of little secrets to find, but the number and size of areas is never so big that players are likely to feel completely lost.
Combat in Legend of Legacy is easily the game’s strength. Using a party of three, players select different formations, set up outside of combat, with each character assigned a different stance. These fall into three categories: attack, guard, and support. Attack stances obviously boost a character’s attack power, guard increases a character’s defense and allows blocking maneuvers to defend the whole party, and support increases speed and healing power. Different variations on these stances, such as a variation of guard that increases counterattack rate, can be unlocked as players progress. Picking the right formation is critical in harder encounters in the game. Players start with the basic attack, support, and guard stances, but sadly the process for getting new stances is a bit frustrating. Selling completed maps in town will inspire various NPCs to explore the wilds as well, and some of them can teach the player new stances. This is a random occurrence, however, so there is no way to track down a specific stance easily. Thankfully, they are not required in any real way; they just give the player additional options.
Similar to the SaGa series, characters learn skills for each different weapon type. These are gained at random when using existing skills for a weapon. The rate at which this happens actually feels relatively frequent up until the player has a large selection to choose from. At that point, new skills will be rare, but often powerful, surprises. Skills have a wide variety of effects and properties, such as being able to punch through defenses or hit all enemies, and there are even defensive skills to deflect or counter enemy attacks. Shields get their own skills as well, so those who prefer a defensive style in combat will have plenty to work with. Characters can also equip a second weapon instead of a shield, to provide additional skills.
Management of skill points and hit points in Legend of Legacy functions in an interesting way, that fits with the game’s theme of exploration. HP is completely refilled between battles, while skill points recover slowly over the course of battle. The catch with HP though, is that if a character gets knocked down to zero, their max HP total will be lowered until they rest at the inn, or in certain camping spots within dungeons. Subsequent hits while at zero will also continue to decrease this total. This makes exploring a resource management battle, trying to keep max HP totals up, while not overusing SP.
Thankfully there are tools that help with this resource management. There are some uncommon to rare items that can be used outside of battle to restore SP and max HP totals, and magic can help in this area as well. Magic in Legend of Legacy works based on the idea of contracts. Before the player can use any magic in battle, a contract for that element needs to be obtained. Items called singing stones are acquired during the course of the game which allow a character to acquire the contract during combat, so magic of that type can be used. In addition, repeatedly acquiring the contract of one element, even if the player already has it, will increase the power of that particular element, which can affect how much damage physical and magical attacks do. The contracts have more direct benefit as well, as the air element contract, for example, will restore some SP every round in combat when acquired, and water will restore some HP.
Managing these contracts becomes an important element of combat in tougher fights, as they help keep SP and HP up, and allow the use of potentially crucial magic. Things get tricky because enemies can acquire the contracts as well, and only one side at a time can get the benefit. Also, managing to get a good stock of spells proves to be quite troublesome. In addition to giving tantalizing tidbits of the island’s backstory, singing statues scattered throughout Avalon provide the player with whispering shards, each of which contains a single spell. These can be equipped to allow a character to cast a spell in battle, and this will also give the character a chance at permanently learning that spell. Other magic can also be sparked off of known spells, similar to how weapon abilities work. Unfortunately, the rate at which magic is learned seems to be particularly low, and with only two accessories slots per character to equip whispering stones, the singing stones to get the elemental contracts, and other useful equipment, it becomes particularly difficult to manage magic. It’s a shame, because there’s lots of interesting spells for players to use, but there simply won’t be the space to use a great variety.
Legend of Legacy provides a huge variety of skills for players to vanquish foes while carefully managing HP and SP. Enemies are no slouches, though. They have access to the same stances players do, contract elements and use magic, and often hit hard even in regular encounters. All enemies appear on the field while exploring, so it is possible to avoid battles, but since Legend of Legacy uses an advancement system where stats and weapon skill power increase through fighting tougher enemies, avoiding many battles will only serve to harm the party’s advancement. Battles generally feel tough but fair. Unless the player has wandered into an area too high for the party, defeat will generally feel like a matter of failed tactics, and not the game simply being hard for hard’s sake. Given that HP restores between battles, there are rarely any fights that require no strategy, as most fights will be capable of wiping the party if the player is not careful. Aside from some special cases, it’s possible to run away from any fight with no chance of failure, the only problem being that running away sends the player back to the start of the current location. This provides a classic scenario of deciding between fighting enemies that can potentially wipe the party to allow the player to venture further into a dungeon, or run away to be safe. Thankfully, the game can be saved at any time outside of battle, allowing careful players to avoid losing progress.
As mentioned previously, the player will encounter various singing stones that provide hints at the history of the island. This helps to provide a good sense of mystery for the story which works fine in a general sense, but the whole endeavor largely feel underdeveloped. This is primarily due to the pointless selection of a main character. Outside of opening and ending sequences for that character, there is no difference in the story between characters. That one character will simply be required to be in the party, as the other two characters can be swapped for any of the others in town. Not being a story-focused game, it doesn’t impact the overall experience much. However, it does feel like a huge missed opportunity, especially given how big an element this was in the SaGa series that Legend of Legacy draws inspiration from. Avalon is an interesting place to explore to be sure, but the characters used to explore it, sadly, are not.
Legend of Legacy isn’t afraid to show where it draws inspiration from in terms of gameplay, and the same goes for the visual style. Character models, environments, and art from the box and manual all evoke the SaGa series, and classic 16 and 32-bit games in general. The graphics make decent use of the 3D effect on the 3DS as well, giving things a nice depth without distracting from the experience too much. Monster models are reused a fair amount, but there are enough that this never becomes more than a minor annoyance. Many of the locations on the island itself have distinct and interesting designs, and environmental hazards the player must avoid while exploring add some additional visual flair. The music mixes a variety of orchestral sounds to help make locations feel mysterious, combat feel exciting, and of course to make boss encounters feel suitably epic. There’s a great variety of pieces in Masashi Hamauzu’s soundtrack, many of which will likely stick in the minds of players for a long time.
At the end of the day, Legend of Legacy provides a satisfying experience, with plenty to explore, and lots of challenging combat to experience. The story is a bit underwhelming, especially considering the choice of a main character makes little difference to the progression of things. Overall though, it matches up with the style of gameplay quite well. The graphics and music evoke classic RPGs while maintaining a style of their of own, giving the game a familiar yet fresh feel. It may not bear the SaGa name, but it carries on the best aspects of the series. Akitoshi Kawazu would be proud.
Fun and challenging battle system Nonlinear approach that rarely leaves the player lost Lots of magic and skills for players to discover and use
Pointless main character choice Main character stories underdeveloped Magic system too cumbersome early on